The Amazing Race Recap
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
November 21, 2011

I love you almost as much as Peyton Manning.

With Angry Dad and his unfortunate son out of the way, we’re down to the final competitors in the race. Five teams remain to compete for three finalist spots, and it’s looking like for some of the competitors, it’s simply going to come down to who’s going to make the fewest mistakes. So, let’s take a look at the power rankings and see where these racers stack up.

Team Dude, snowboarders Andy & Tommy - So they didn’t finish in first last week, but that’s plenty of reason to believe they’re still the best team out there. This duo works together almost effortlessly, with a natural chemistry that their competitors just can’t match. We’ll continue to expect meddling from the producers to ensure that they won’t just completely dominate the remainder of the race.

Engaged couple Ernie & Cindy - They didn’t get any more likable last week, but they did finally manage to win a leg. Basically, when we look at them versus the teams below them, it just comes down to the fact that they do make fewer errors than their compatriots. It’s not that they’re super spectacular at the race or anything like that. We will say that we’re absolutely rooting for them to be eliminated this time out. Maybe the Amazing Race gods will hear our prayers.

Grandparents Bill & Cathi - We almost want to push them ahead of Ernie & Cindy for their sweet love story alone, but alas, they’ve had the propensity to make a few errors here and there throughout the race. However, they’re working together really well in these later legs, and their maturity and level-headedness can really work for them in high-stress situations. We do worry about the possibility of physical challenges taking their toll, but really, neither of them has shown any signs of wearing down.

Team NFL Marcus & Amani - Still our favorites, but also highly prone to slipups. They might not have blown away the competition last week, but this duo did get some rest while they waited for their plane and as a result, their legs might be just a bit fresher. This may play to their advantage, but even though we love them, we fully admit that they could get tripped up in some details.

Jeremy & Sandy, test-driving their relationship on the race - They finished just ahead of Zac & Laurence last week, and that’s really only because Bill & Cathi were kind enough to give the father-son team a U-Turn, thereby sealing their fate. Jeremy & Sandy are fairly nondescript in comparison to the other teams, which makes us wonder if their edit wouldn’t indicate that there’s no reason to even bother rooting for them. It’s possible they’ll prove us wrong, but they have no outstanding skills and their communication can be tenuous at best.

Previously on The Amazing Race, supremely obnoxious Laurence and his much nicer son Zac were eliminated, leaving us with a trio of respectable teams, a nondescript team (Jeremy & Sandy) and a team where the guy could do so much better (Ernie & Cindy). With Laurence gone, the toxic atmosphere of the show is reduced 50%. Get rid of Cindy and we’ll be breathing enough clean air to make Al Gore smile.

Copenhagen, Denmark is the start of this week’s leg. And the first team out of the gate is Ernie & The Selfish One. The latter person took control at the end of the most recent league, making the judgment call to U-turn the team in second place for the least viable of reasons. Cindy wanted to win a leg after being denied in the previous one by Andy & Tommy, who had the audacity to beat her straight up in a race to finish line. The nerve of some people. Cindy seems to believe she is participating in The Everybody Let Me Win Race. But I digress because I hate her. They leave at 9:01 a.m., hopefully headed to The Bermuda Triangle.

The first heat of this leg requires players to race to a statue of Hans Christian Anderson, where they will get a clue that informs them that they must become thespians for a day. The chosen player from each team must memorize a set of verses then get on stage and recite them to an actor. If this absurdly garbed gentleman is satisfied with their performance, he will hand them their next clue. Not all challenges in The Amazing Race are created equal. This is one that anyone not named Nicolas Cage can do in their sleep. Cindy proves my point by accomplishing the task on the first attempt. If Cindy can do it without whinging any, this isn’t hard.

The order for the rest of the remaining contestants is as follows. Bill & Cathi depart at 10:34 a.m. Andy & Tommy leave five minutes later at 10:39 a.m. Amani & Marcus are over an hour behind them at 11:43 a.m. and Jeremy & Sandy start in the rear at 12:08 p.m. The gap from first to last place at the start of the leg is three hours and seven minutes with Jeremy & Sandy 25 minutes behind everyone else. Since there isn’t any bunching at the beginning of this leg, they are in some trouble.

As everyone follows in the steps of Ernie & Cindy, there are a couple of surprising developments. The first is that what I had presumed to be the no-brainer aspect of this challenge proves to be a stumbling block for some. Let’s take a moment to discuss why.

The contestants are required to ride a bike from the statue to the theater. This is one of those bikes made famous in the Olympics a while back; it has a solid wheel that makes it more aerodynamic. A map of the area is printed on the solid wheel. I had assumed that at this stage of the race, all the participants would have no problem reading a map. I was wrong.

Also, the reason why is a bit ridiculous. The position of the theater on the map depends upon where the wheel is turned when the contestant looks at it. In other words, if the map is upside down, a clever player would spin the wheel until they found the appropriate location. Cathi awkwardly leans down to study the map and rather than spinning it some, she drives off to find someone who could provide her directions instead. This costs her a lot of valuable time. Tommy’s situation is even worse as he gets so lost that he believes his location is not even on the wheel map. One of the aspects of this competition that never fails to surprise me is how often a minor tweaking of a standard situation such as reading a map can wreak havoc on the players.

The other humorous aspect is that Amani chooses to handle this challenge. Marcus “helps” her by offering up some coaching he had learned during his playing days in the NFL. As she attempts to memorize her dialogue, he starts shouting random words intended to distract her. His logic is that if she can recite the lines in the face of such chaos, she will have no problem doing so in the theater. As much as I love Marcus Pollard, this is not a road game against the New England Patriots. I am at the ready with a diatribe about how destructive this behavior is to her when she arrives at the theater and…nails her dialogue perfectly. Despite starting an hour behind the others, Amani’s performance elevates her team into second place. You’ve won this round, Coach Pollard.

“You don’t know who you’re rolling with, dawg.” – Amani, calmly downplaying her dominant performance

When we speak of actors, Cathi is no Amani. She messes up her dialogue recitation and is forced to try again. This entails riding back to the statue then going back to the theater. The delay combined with the earlier map mess means that she rides off at almost exactly the same time as Sandy, whose last place situation is much better than it looked only moments ago. Cathi does get it right the second time.

Tommy finishes on her heels. He is less fortunate, however. There is no emotion in his delivery, which causes the thespian judge to fail him. Tommy is not happy and his mood declines when he sees Sandy standing in the waiting room, ready to take her turn. Fortunately for him, her performance is no better. Both of them are victims of a non-specific clue that fails to mention they will be judged for their overall performance, not just their memorization skills. Both of them deliver on their second attempts, but these two teams have fallen well behind the other three duos.

The next destination in this leg of The Amazing Race is the original Legoland Park in Billund, Denmark. The teams get their next clue at the Pirate Carousel ride and instructed to put together a puzzle as they spin on the ride. Think Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and you’ll understand how difficult this challenge is. Anyone who suffers from motion sickness is going to be useless. Ernie & Cindy continue to handle their newfound role as frontrunners quite well. They complete the challenge quickly and discover that their next destination is the train station in Hamburg, Germany. Little do they realize that this will be an eventful ticket purchase.

With Amani & Marcus and Ernie & Cindy separating themselves from the pack, the bottom three spots are hotly contested. The snowboarders find themselves assembling the puzzle at the same time as the fledgling couple. The grandparents have fallen behind because they were lost and the directions they were given did not pass the laugh test. Bill & Cathi are in some trouble.

Meanwhile, a clever bit of editing shows the strife between Jeremy & Sandy as the woman freaks out the moment the ride begins. They lose a piece of their puzzle as it flies out of the ride and onto the track. Then, their emotions get the best of them as she starts to chant those dreaded The Amazing Race words, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” Conversely, the snowboarders are functioning as a single unit, blending together as some sort of puzzle-solving transformer. Puzzlor has an MSRP of $39.99. Its special ability is to destroy all couples who are “testing out their relationships”. The snowboarders smoke Jeremy & Sandy and head to Hamburg.

Remember how I said there would be no bunching on this leg? I was wrong. Ernie & Cindy arrive at the train station where they discover that the next train doesn’t leave until after midnight. All of the participants are likely to wind up on this same voyage. And remember how I said this would be an eventful ticket purchase for Ernie & Cindy? As they express their frustration about the unexpected bunching, they leave the ticket area. The clever camera operator notes something that neither of them does. Their tickets have fallen to the floor, meaning that they do not have the appropriate travel documents for this train ride. Remember how I was hoping Ernie & Cindy were eliminated this week? I may get my wish.

Back at Legoland, Bill & Cathi are the last team to arrive. We the viewers know what they do not. They are about to be in a five way tie for first, whether they deserve it or not. And speaking of people who deserve to lose, Ernie & Cindy have recognized that they are missing the one item that all people riding on a train need: train tickets.

There are two phases of this journey. The first is from Hamburg to Cologne, Germany while the second is Cologne to Brussels, Belgium. They still have their tickets for the first half of the trip but not the second. They cannot afford to buy new tickets, so they get on the train anyway, hoping that the conductor can verify their purchase. When informed that she cannot, they are left to hope that the conductor does not ask for them during the trip to Belgium. In a twist that seems like producer meddling, this is exactly what happens. The question becomes whether they will suffer a penalty at the pit stop as punishment for their mistake. They should.

When they depart the train station, there is a mad scramble for a taxi. This also may yet prove to be a violation of the rules. There is a clear line for all train station customers to wait for a cab, at least 25 of them. All of the participants in this competition become Ugly Americans for a moment by running into the streets and flagging down a ride before they drive to the waiting line. Bill & Cathi switch from last to first as they reach the intended destination, the European Parliament building, a gorgeous looking piece of architecture.

The clue states that in honor of Jean-Claude Van Damme (?), they will participate in a professional bodybuilding competition. After learning a series of roughly a dozen poses, each team will have a pose-down where judges will determine whether they have scored the requisite 12 points in composite scoring needed to pass.

While the banana hammocks the men sport are absurd looking, the good news here is that all of the contestants are a lot more muscular than we had realized. Bill & Cathi are self-conscious throughout the competition as they stand near their much younger peers, but I think I speak for North America when I say that I hope I look as good as they do at their age.

The muscle poses phase demonstrates a couple of aspects of the competition Kim and I had noted last week. Some folks take instructions better than others. As an example, Marcus Pollard spent the body of his NFL career listen to the drill sergeant demands of Peyton Manning. When his bodybuilder teaches poses, Pollard doesn’t need to hear them twice. Oddly, the professional snowboarders are not like this. I guess that a coach’s role in this sport is downplayed and that they are affable enough not to have needed harsh discipline. They don’t pay anywhere near enough attention during their training.

Ernie & Cindy make the same mistake in this heat that befell the grandparents and the fledgling couple earlier in the leg. They do not demonstrate enough attention to detail with regards to the workout, causing them to fail with only 9 points in the first round of judging. Ernie was too busy being impressed with how he looked mostly naked to learn the correct poses. The snowboarders make them look like Mr. Olympia. Their combined score is 4. This may take them awhile.

The Pollards, on the other hand, knock it out of the park with 12 points in their first attempt. They have dominated on this leg and appear headed for a first place finish, as long as they don’t get lost on the way to the Pit Stop at Parc Elisabeth. The Pollards overcame a disastrous decision last round and are now in strong shape to make the final four.

After Andy & Tommy blow the pose-down again, improving only 1 point to 5, Ernie & Cindy become the second team to complete the challenge with a score of 12. If they are not penalized for losing their train tickets, they have survived this leg. Bill & Cathi then deliver the worst performance yet with only 3 points, the worst score possible. Their loss is a gain for Jeremy & Sandy, who deliver a tremendous performance of 13. Despite start the leg well behind the other four teams, they appear likely to survive.

We do not know that for certain, though. When the Pollards arrive at the Pit Stop, Phil greets them with the news that they are team number one. They win a great prize, a trip for two to Panama. Then, their celebration is truncated.

Phil unequivocally states, “Now, as the first team to arrive, you know what that means. You’ll be the first team leaving on the next leg of the race…and the next leg of the race starts right now.”

Yes, this is the dreaded To Be Continued… episode. When Daron returns next week, he will find out whether Ernie & Cindy were punished, whether the last time to arrive on the current leg is eliminated or whether there will be a single/double elimination on the next leg. As long as the Pollards win the competition, we don’t care about the specifics.